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Victory over Sin

In my previous post, I promised to examine how a limited human perspective causes confusion when trying to interpret the teachings of Christ through the Holy Spirit. I’m going to take one of the most fearsome passages in the Bible, that of Revelation 21:8, in which John interprets part of his vision as a “second death” reserved for those that sin.

When confronted with the reality of sin and the pain it causes, it is natural to use threats to keep it at bay. Our legal system does this, and that is echoed in the Law of Moses that was used in the Bible between Noah and the ministry of the savior. For those that sympathize with this approach, it is natural to interpret the Crucifixion as atonement for our sins, and the terrible destruction John describes in Revelation is interpreted as justice being meted out on the sinful.

But what is sin? I have suggested here and elsewhere (see The Soul Comes First) that sin is found in any act that leaves a wound in the soul. Is the propensity to sin inextricably part of humanity? I see at is something that was carried forward from our Darwinian past. Animals tear and rend unthinkingly, doing enormous damage to the souls of the things that they consume.

In the Garden of Eden, a man and a woman are found in a privileged relationship with God. They were innocent and free from sin. We know from Revelation that ultimately sin will be destroyed. God set Adam – the creature made in his image – to that work, with his true love Eve as his helpmate. As might be expected, sin fights for survival. In both the story of the Fall and Cain and Abel, sin is represented as something outside of just relationships. The serpent comes between Adam and Eve, and God speaks to Cain directly of “sin crouching at your door.” In both cases, the effect of sin is not just to separate humanity from God – it also breaks the trust we have in each other. Adam and Eve don clothing not only to hide from God, but to hide from each other. Cain’s jealousy leads to the murder of Abel, extending the loss of trust to brothers and sisters.

Sin has its way with humanity. It entered into us as an infection. This is indeed how Jesus speaks of it, saying [Matt. 2:17]

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

Of course, Jesus’s healing skills are not rooted in knowledge of physiology, but in spiritual authority. He simply commands people to be well, and when they respond, honors their faith. The physical healings are paired to the casting out of sin in the form of demons. These were skills Jesus shared with the Apostles.

This work was interrupted by the ultimate sin, the Crucifixion of the savior. Jesus allows sin to have its way with him, suffering a brutal and painful death. In that process, he reciprocates with love. This is done in fulfillment of the promise that he would die for the forgiveness of sin, but that is only a waypoint on the journey. Humanity had a work to do in Eden, and we failed in that role because sin entered into our relationships. However, that work still remains to be done. Jesus came to restore us to the condition that prevailed in Eden so that we might complete the work that had been put before us.

Why didn’t Jesus just remove sin from us entirely, then? It is because we have free will. We have been convinced by sin, through the serpent and others, that we are at fault, that we deserve punishment. This is internalized to such a great degree that we punish each other for sin, compounding the damage wrought upon human nature. We cling to sin. In dying for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus was trying to break that embrace. He was saying “Humanity, let go of your burdens. Forgive each other, as God has forgiven you.” He resurrection was intended to convince us to rely upon the healing power of love.

We have trouble with that. Sin is wound deep into our spirits, and struggles still to survive. But Jesus promises to come again, and we can rely upon that promise though a day to him be like a thousand years to us [2 Peter 3]. When he does come to help us overcome sin, what will the result be like?

This is described by John in Revelation. He says {Rev. 21:8]:

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

I remind you that this is a human interpretation. Should we take the passage to mean that all those that sin will die the second death of fire and brimstone?

Well, look at it from God’s perspective: What would be the point in that, for have not we all sinned? No, Jesus’s goal is to preserve that which is good, and no one is purely evil. What John described was the destruction of sin along with the memories of the pain that it has caused. Sinful acts are written in our souls, but Jesus will return to separate us from those behaviors and their consequences so that the pure heart of humanity may be returned to heaven. When John reports people burning in hell, he is confusing the destruction of the evidence and effects of their acts. He sees the events themselves being destroyed. The fire is the fire that purges us of the infection of sin, bringing us liberty.

3 thoughts on “Victory over Sin

  1. In all sincerity and honesty, I find it sad that once we acknowledge sin, we get stuck on sin.
    When I think if sin, I think moreso about the failure of man to simply not recognize God. For without failure to recognize God, how can we understand the nature of all the other things which we deem sinful. A good illustration would be perhaps Pauls words to the Gentiles and Jews and all of humanity in Romans 1 and 2. The concept illustrated in these passages seem more significant in the larger picture of sin existing in the relationship/non relationship to God through Christ. For me, this offers more significant insight as to sins relationship to you, me and everyone else. After all, the relational aspect of God/Christ/Church/humanity is what supports all of us in working past just sin and recognizing the goodness in relationships with one another and how we can see and experience truth and even grace through Christ-assisting us in real ministry with one another.

    • Thank-you for offering this. It is so true. God is love, and Jesus was love in the flesh. The healing power of love knows no limits. I’ve been trying to tell people “There’s far more power available to us than we need to solve the problems we face – it’s just that we’re not trusted to use it.” The challenge is to do as Jesus did: stop worrying about ‘me’, and surrender in service to the world.

      Of course, learning to love does not stop others from sinning against us. It will hurt, but that is only a moment. What Jesus demonstrated to those trapped in sin is that God’s power was so much greater than theirs. This is what is truly terrifying to them: that we should realize that they have no meaning, and refuse to submit to their attempts to control us through their willingness to sin against us. God will wipe away every tear, removing the wounds of their sin, and we will have peace with him forever.

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